A Question about Evangelical Churches that are “Welcoming and Affirming”
Let me define my terms. To me, “evangelical” is a brand of (mostly) Protestant Christianity that strongly emphasizes the unique inspiration and authority of the Bible, that believes and preaches and teaches that all people are sinners in need of redemption and that Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the world and that he is God incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity. It also believes, preaches and teaches that to be saved a person must personally repent and place his or her trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and that having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that is life-transforming is essential to authentic Christian existence. Also, evangelical Christianity believes, preaches and teaches that the cross of Jesus Christ was the sacrifice for sins by which people can be saved and only by that (not by “turning over a new leaf”). Finally, evangelical Christianity believes, preaches and teaches that evangelism of the “lost” (the unsaved) is crucial as is activism in helping the poor.
Typically, also, an evangelical church encourages Christians to live holy, separated lives not accommodated to the world, and to regard every person met who is not already a Christian as needing to repent and have faith in Jesus Christ and receive the inner presence of the Holy Spirit for holy living and serving.
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
I have been told that there are truly, authentically evangelical churches that are also “welcoming and affirming” in the sense of embracing same-sex marriage and openly gay and lesbian people as church leaders.
Now, let me give a little bit of history. I’m old and remember things most other people have forgotten. Many years ago Pentecostal pastor Troy Perry (Church of God) came out as openly gay and affirming of his same-sex attraction as a gift from God, not a defect or flaw. He founded a denomination called the Metropolitan Community Churches which still exists. In the beginning (and I know this for a fact from personal experience) the Metropolitan Community Churches were theologically and spiritually evangelical. But over the years that has not (in my opinion) remained the case.
What I would like to know is the NAMES and LOCATIONS of specific welcoming and affirming church congregations in the U.S. that are truly, authentically evangelical in the sense I spelled out above. And because the accusation that I hear is that such churches ALWAYS wander away from being truly, authentically evangelical over time, I’ll restrict the nominations to churches that have been openly welcoming and affirming for at least five years.Now, I have to warn you. I know a lot of churches. I travel, visit churches, study churches, look at churches’ web sites, study them, etc. I’m not a novice at this. Studying American churches has been my passion for many years. Right now I cannot think of any congregation that has been openly welcoming and affirming for more than five years that I would also consider truly, authentically evangelical in the sense I described above. There does seem to be some evidence (anecdotal) that evangelical congregations that become openly welcoming and affirming ALSO come eventually to lose their evangelical ethos in its full robustness. That is, for example, they accept into full membership and even leadership people who do NOT believe Jesus is God, Jesus is the only Lord and Savior, the Bible is supernaturally inspired and unique in its authority (not just “our sacred stories”), etc.
One more thing. I do believe that any church that accepts into full membership and especially leadership people who do NOT believe the things I spelled out above is no longer evangelical.
This is the crux of the issue, the seemingly rapid decline in evangelical doctrine and practice when a church becomes welcoming and affirming. It doesn’t suddenly appear in the pulpit but it begins to appear (so it is said) when not only openly practicing gay people are admitted to full membership and even leadership because along with that comes greater inclusiveness with regard to people who seriously question evangelical hallmarks of theology and practice.
If you name a church, do NOT include a hyperlink to its web site (or any other hyperlinks)! Just mention the church name and its location so people can look at its web site and detect, if possible, to what extent it is still truly, authentically evangelical. Remember the five year requirement. The church had to have adopted a welcoming and affirming position at least five years in the past.
*Note to commenters: This blog is not a discussion board; please respond with a question or comment only to me. If you do not share my evangelical Christian perspective (very broadly defined), feel free to ask a question for clarification, but know that this is not a space for debating incommensurate perspectives/worldviews. In any case, know that there is no guarantee that your question or comment will be posted by the moderator or answered by the writer. If you hope for your question or comment to appear here and be answered or responded to, make sure it is civil, respectful, and “on topic.” Do not comment if you have not read the entire post and do not misrepresent what it says. Keep any comment (including questions) to minimal length; do not post essays, sermons or testimonies here. Do not post links to internet sites here. This is a space for expressions of the blogger’s (or guest writers’) opinions and constructive dialogue among evangelical Christians (very broadly defined).